Friday, February 3, 2012

More words...

So I know I've already sort of covered this topic here and here, but apparently I have more to say about words and their use. How do I know I have more to say? Because the world keeps throwing examples at me and my "blog brain" keeps writing this, over and out it goes!

If you haven't read the two blogs I linked in the first line; quick synopsis is I swear, A LOT, and I also think that you need to watch your use of racial and sexual slurs. I realized not long ago that I missed another word use that really bothers me in how common it's become and that's what triggered this blog. I will get to that in a moment, but I am going to start with tone.

Isn't it amazing how a word can be just a word until someone changes the tone? I had someone throw the word "perfect" at me the other day. Now perfect is a wonderful word. It can mean so many things and they are mostly good.  But the way it was used at that time was as a finely sharpened knife to slip in between my ribs straight to my heart. It was tossed out as a weapon. And it hit its mark. Amazing how tone and intent can change things isn't it? Which was my point in the first blog I linked.

So that was one thing that pinged in my head again that I need to write this blog. Words. Intent. Then a few days ago a friend of mine used the word "fag" in a comment on my Facebook status. I thought for a long time about calling him out on it, but didn't because he is gay. It's that same thing I talked about in the other blog. If you are part of the community and you use it does that make it okay? I don't use it. I use gay, homosexual, lesbian. I don't use fag. Just because I have heard it used in so many ugly ways. I also don't use fag-hag, which I think is just a nasty and bitter phrase no matter who is using it. But he is gay, he does use the word fag, he obviously doesn't mean anything negative by it, so I ended up not saying anything. Until now, but it's my blog and I will ponder if I want to...

Which then brings me to my last point. The one that started this blog pinging around in my head even though I kept trying to reason with my "blog brain" that I had ALREADY written about words and language. TWICE. But apparently I have more to say so here we go...

A few weeks ago I was talking to C about his classes. He has one instructor in particular who has word issues. He is that sort of militant feminist you only seem to find in college settings. And bookstores in Portland, according to Portlandia... Anyway...he is one of those that uses person instead of man. Like fireperson, policeperson, and would most likely want to spell women with a y. Womyn. You know the type? The ones that take a serious issue, like gender inequality, and make it insane.

So anyway....C was telling me about a conversation this instructor was having with one of the women in the gaming program. She was talking about a game and that she had been "raped" in points. He stopped her and proceeded to lecture her about the use of the word rape in such a context. I had to admit to C that I am really uncomfortable with the casual use of the word among gamers and the general population myself. It bothers me. A lot. The act of rape is a violent, scary, horrible offense. We don't have any other word to use to describe what it is. There is nothing we can say that can invoke the terror, the pain, the awfulness of the act. To take the word and use it to mean that you paid more at the car dealership than you wanted to, or you lost a lot of points or gold in a game, it bothers me.

The first time I can remember hearing and associating the word with what it really meant was when I was around 12 or so. Now I had, obviously, heard the word and I knew what it meant. But my first "holy shit" moment was around that age. I had cut open my finger and was waiting in the ER with my mother to get stitched up. There was a young woman, maybe 16 or 17 years old sitting near us. I couldn't stop looking up at her. Her face was bruised and swollen. Her lip was split and it would drip blood down her chin that she would wipe up calmly with a towel she was holding that was already red. Her jeans were soaked with blood that I, at first, thought had come from her lip, but now I am not so sure. She moved over to sit near my mother and I and passed us a note, we found out she was deaf and dumb, the note said..."He did rape to me." Shortly after that the police came and she was taken back for her exam and to give her statement. I never saw her again. But I never forgot that moment. He did rape to me.

That's rape.

You all know I had my own experience and it ended up much better than hers. It even took me a long time to classify what happened to me as attempted rape because it didn't go as badly as it could have. But that's what it was. Attempted rape. He tried to do rape to me. It's ugly. It's horrible. It's scary.

So as C and I were talking about it he told me that the biggest issue that he and his friends had with it is that this was an older male lecturing a younger female about the use of the word rape. It made her uncomfortable. I told him I was actually glad that it did and that was really my point. That the word itself hasn't lost all of it's effectiveness yet if  it could still make her feel that way. Yes, men get raped, I know that, but it's generally a man on woman crime. It's not about sex. It's about violence. It's about domination and humiliation. And I don't want the word to lose that power. And it will if we keep using it casually. I don't want to see a day where someone tells you they have been raped and your reaction is blasé because you assume she is talking about a video game or a car deal. I want that word to hold its power.

I realize I am fighting a losing battle here, I see it almost daily on game forums and hear it in conversations about very mundane things. But I still had to write about. To get it out of my head. And to hopefully make a point. Yes, I swear.  No, I don't believe there are "good words" and "bad words".  Yes, I think intent behind a word can change the entire meaning of the word. But I also believe that words are powerful. And some words should be used only when there is no other way to get your meaning across. Don't let a casual use of a word let you ever forget how ugly the act it describes really is.

He did rape to me.

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